THE BLOG
11/11/2013 10:50 am ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Switching Genders for a Day

When another form of intelligent life is finally discovered in the universe, humans will rush to see how the ET looks and behaves. Yet, if you think about it, one half of mankind is almost completely alien to the other half -- womankind. Now, I know you think I'm exaggerating but, seriously folks, what do you imagine it would be like to switch genders for a day?

Years ago I wrote a column on the topic, and I'm still getting mail. Males go into great detail telling me what they'd do during those 24 hours, and it seems that females are just as eager to experience life on the other side. What I found interesting was that, despite what I would have thought, the comments between the sexes are often quite similar. I can sometimes get to the very end of a letter before guessing the gender of the sender and sometimes I never know for sure. Consider the following: "I'd spend an hour in the shower and then go to a pick-up bar to see what that's like," or "I'd spend the day in the gym's 'other' locker room to watch how they act on there (sic) own," or "24 hours of trying on shoes," and finally "FREE at last -- at last FREE to be me." You could, of course, guess at their genders, but that might say more about you than them.

One female, a newspaper reporter, actually made the switch for a day. She shed her makeup, tucked her hair under a cap and applied a phony mustache. Baggy clothes then completed the transformation and out she went. Big shock! In a flash, she realized she was suddenly invisible. Younger girls become so accustomed to being ogled they take it for granted, while older women sometimes remark on no longer being noticed.

And what exactly are those visual cues that set the sexes apart? An ET would probably find it difficult to tell the one from the other. Both are about the same size and shape, with two arms, two legs, a couple of ears and a nose. Yet Homo Sapiens have no such problem. Get a magazine, cut out a few body parts (hand, foot, elbow, knee, etc.) and ask a friend to make the distinction... piece of cake! And why do I, as a male, find a female leg with exactly the same skin/muscle/bone structure as my own so appealing? It's a subtle difference by any measure.

That female reporter was unusual in pulling off her transition. Lilly Tomlin is the only female I know who could dress like a male and fool the audience. She had the body language nailed. I suspect men have an easier time of it because females are awash in female symbols. Where a man merely covers his private parts and is out the door, a woman has to spend time "getting ready." So much is artifice that to enjoy being a girl must be to enjoy getting costumed.

That said, I recall as a prepubescent lad being strangely attracted to a prepubescent lass. Any artifice at that stage was out of the question and yet there was that disquieting sensation somewhere in my being that I couldn't quite identify until a couple of years later. But one wonders how it would have played out if she had been a he? Is a simple imprinting error early in life responsible for same sex couples later in life? And why are some people so disturbed by that concept? Does methinks they doth protest too much come to mind? .

And it's not just what you see. Subjects sniffing undergarments taken from men and women could almost always identify the previous wearer's gender. Voices too can be easily separated. Some companies will switch disgruntled callers from a female to a male associate and thereby give the impression of moving up the corporate ladder. And can somebody -- an evolutionary psychologist perhaps -- tell me why girls swoon over boy singers but boys rarely come unglued over girl singers?

There are dozens of books listing and exploring uniquely male/female, mental/physical characteristics and almost as many books saying such differences don't matter. But assuming you could swap genders for a day:

A) Would you, and if so

B) What are the first three things you'd do as the new you?

After the obvious answers, I suspect what follows will surprise even you. As for me, I'd like to see what it's like to always be right... just like my wife.